Professional lacrosse has been dead in Montreal for over a decade but Jamie Batley has been working hard to change that.
Batley has been a driving force behind the push to bring a pro team back to Montreal for the first time since 2002 and in the last year he has been heavily involved in promoting two exhibition games at the Bell Centre.
The first game took place last December when the Toronto Rock defeated the Rochester Knighthawks by a score of 14-10 in National Lacrosse League pre season play. The game was deemed a success by organizers, players and most importantly the fans.
The second game was last weekend when Batley and co-promoter Martin Routhier teamed up once again to bring an international exhibition game to the Bell Centre. The game, which was dubbed the Heritage Cup, saw team Canada take down the Iroquois Nationals 12-11 in a rematch from the 2011 World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic; a gold medal game that Canada won 13-6.
Both exhibition games in Montreal drew in about 8000 fans which is very respectable considering neither contest featured a Montreal based team or even a team from the province of Quebec for that matter.
Although these exhibition games took place at the Bell Centre, Batley feels it would be too costly to run a pro lacrosse there and instead has his sights set on a new arena that is being built in Laval, just 30 minutes outside of Montreal (which is closer than the drive from Vancouver to Langley where the Stealth will play this upcoming season).
If Batley is successful in bringing a franchise to La Belle Province, it will be the fifth NLL franchise in Canada.
NOTES: the now defunct Montreal Express played in the NLL during the 2002 season but then took two years off before their rights were eventually sold to Minnesota where they still play as the Swarm.
Montreal’s first regular season game saw them defeat another expansion team, the Calgary Roughnecks, by a score 32-17 which set a new NLL record for most goals by one team and most goals combined in a single game. The game also had a record 155 penalty minutes.
The Express lineup featured six Peterborough born players and had more Lakers (8) than any other pro lacrosse team at that time; ironically, last season’s Swarm roster also had more Lakers than any other team with five.
Tracey Kelusky is the only player from that Montreal roster who is still active in the NLL.